David J. Hickton
|United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania|
May 2010 – November 2016
|Preceded by||Robert S. Cessar|
|Succeeded by||Scott Brady|
|Born||August 14, 1955|
|Education||Penn State University (B.A.)|
University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D.)
David J. Hickton (born August 14, 1955) is the director and founder of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security. Prior to that, he was the 57th U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He resigned following the election of President Donald Trump and began his position at Pitt in January 2017. While a U.S. Attorney, Hickton brought several indictments for cybertheft and hacking. He also played a key role in combating the opioid abuse epidemic in Western Pennsylvania. Prior to becoming U.S. Attorney, Hickton engaged in the private practice of law, specifically in the areas of transportation, litigation, commercial and white collar crime.
Early life and education
Hickton was born on August 14, 1955 in Columbus, Ohio. He received his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where he met his wife Dawne Eileen Sepanski Hickton.
Hickton began his legal career as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond from 1981 to 1983. For eleven years, Hickton was an adjunct professor at the Duquesne University School of Law, where he taught a course on antitrust law. He served on the Board of Trustees at Penn State University from 1977 to 1980.
In May, 2014, Hickton's office brought an indictment against five members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, alleging economic espionage. The defendants were charged with hacking into American entities to steal trade secrets and other information that would be useful to Chinese competitors. Victims included Westinghouse Electric Company, the U.S. Steel, Alcoa, Inc., and Allegheny Technologies. His office also indicted Russian hacker Evgeniy Bogachev, one of the world's leading cyber criminals.
In July 2015, his office, in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and legal authorities in 19 other countries, shut down Dark0de, a cybercrime forum and black marketplace for security hackers. Darkode offered malware to disrupt operations in computer systems in several countries, and offered stolen data ranging from U.S. Social Security numbers to passwords.
In June 2015, Hickton and his office brought forth a 21 count indictment of conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud, and identity theft against Cuban national Yoandy Perez Llanes. In 2016, Mr. Llanes was extradited from Venezuela to the U.S., and later in 2017, Llanes and a cohort Soler Nodarse, plead guilty for their part in a $2.2 million scheme where hackers stole an estimated 62,000 tax forms of UPMC employees and sold them on the dark web.
While U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania, Hickton was named to co-chair a national Heroin Task Force. In 2014, he formed the U.S. Attorney's Working Group on Addiction: Prevention, Intervention, Treatment, and Recovery. His office worked with the University of Pittsburgh to post information online about lethal batches of heroin.
In 2011, Hickton assembled a Community Police Working Group to help build trust between members of law enforcement and the public. The group held community-based meetings, developed a Crisis Team, and distributed thousands of surveys to elicit community feedback about community-police relations and safety. In 2015, Pittsburgh was selected by Attorney General Loretta Lynch as one of six pilot cities for the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice.
Following a three-year investigation, Hickton secured fundamental changes in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) to humanely address the issues of unconstitutional confinement conditions for those suffering from serious mental illness and for victims of institutional sexual assault. He also initiated a case study in police-community reconciliation in the neighborhood of Homewood.
In 2015, Hickton led an investigation of Education Management Corporation (EDMC), which resulted in the recovery of $95.5 million, the largest False Claims Act (FCA) recovery of Department of Education funds.
In 2016, Hickton successfully prosecuted former CEO and founder of Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School Nicholas Trombetta, who plead guilty of conspiracy, where he took approximately $8 million of educational funds for illegal use. In 2016, Hickton also lead the prosecution of Michael J. Ruffatto, who transferred to his personal bank account $5.7 million in funds from U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory that was awarded to the North American Power Group.
At the request of Linda Lane, Superindent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, Hickton responded to an incident of cross burning in front of an elementary school in the city. He said, the incident was a "notorious sign of hate.." and that the US Civil Rights Section and the FBI were also participating in the investigation.
Awards and recognition
Hickton and his wife Dawne have been involved in the Loren H. Roth, MD, Summer Research Program in the School of Medicine. Pitt declared Hickton as a Legacy Laureate in 2013. He also received a 225th anniversary medallion, an honor bestowed on alumni who have brought particular honor to the University through their work and service.
In 2016, Pitt's School of Law named Hickton one of its Distinguished Alumni. That same year, Hickton was named the Attorney of the Year by The Legal Intelligencer. On January 27, 2017, at the 19th Annual LEAD (Law Enforcement Agency Directors) Awards, Hickton was presented with a special recognition award for his work in the areas of national security and cyber crime.
Hickton is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and a Fellow of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County. He has been admitted before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and several of the U.S. circuit courts. In 2013, Hickton and his wife donated $1 million to establish an endowment for the University of Pittsburgh's Elder Law Clinic, a clinic which is designed to teach law students practical skills while providing free legal services to low income older adults and their family members.
Under President Bill Clinton, Hickton served on the President's Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is an executive board member of the Pittsburgh Public Theater and also served as its president. He was a longtime member of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a non-profit agency that works to promote arts and culture in Downtown Pittsburgh. He and his wife have six children and two grandchildren.
- "Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security". University of Pittsburgh. May 23, 2017. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "Hickton to head cybersecurity institute" (volume 48, number 10). The University Times. January 19, 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- ""Five in China Army Face U.S. Charges of Cyberattacks"". Michael S. Schmidt and David E. Sanger. New York Times. May 19, 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- ""U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh calls heroin surge public health crisis"". Chris Buckley. Pittsburgh Tribune Review. August 6, 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- "Hickton picked for U.S. attorney". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 21, 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- Lawyer Central.com profile
- Tribune-Review. "Pitt law clinic to help low-income seniors endowed by $1 million grant". TribLIVE.com. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- "Hickton believed to be frontrunner for U.S. attorney". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- ""Pittsburgh Officials Indict International Cyber-Criminal"". Liz Reid. WESA-FM. June 2, 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- ""Major computer hacking forum shut down by 20 countries, U.S. announces"". Ellen Nakashima. The Washington Post. July 15, 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- "Alleged UPMC Hack Co-conspirator Extradited to U.S." www.justice.gov. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- "Venezuelan Sentenced For $2.2M Tax Fraud With Hacked Info - Law360". www.law360.com. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- "Cuban national pleads guilty in tax scam that used stolen UPMC IDs". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- ""Federal prosecutor to co-chair national Heroin Task Force"". New Pittsburgh Courier. Associated Press, Joe Mandak. April 17, 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- ""Regional task force on drug addiction nears final report"". Rich Lord. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 15, 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- ""U.S. Attorney, Pitt working to prevent ODs by posting heroin info online"" (February 3, 2016). Brian Bowling. Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- "David J. Hickton". PittLaw. University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Gross, Emma (August 11, 2015). ""U.S. Attorney General Addresses Pittsburgh's Community-Police Relationships"". WESA-FM. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "Justice Department Closes Investigation Against Pennsylvania Department of Corrections". Tri County Sentry – The Tri-County's Only Muliticultural Newspaper. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- Lord, Rich (November 9, 2013). "U.S.attorney hopes to turn a cross-burning incident into a case study in police-community reconciliation". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "EDMC reaches nearly $100 million settlement with prosecutors over recruiting". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- Bowling, Brian. "Cyber charter's former CEO agrees to plea deal in criminal case". TribLIVE.com. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- "After three years of fighting charges, PA Cyber founder admits tax fraud". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- "Power Co. Owner Pleads Guilty To $5.7M Stimulus Fraud - Law360". www.law360.com. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- "Two Elk: Venality and greed, not coal research and jobs | WyoFile". WyoFile. 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- "University Names 14 Legacy Laureates". The University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- "Video: Attorney of the Year Winner David Hickton". The Legal Intelligencer. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- "Law enforcement awards presented at Pitt". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- Webteam, University of Pittsburgh University Marketing Communications. "David and Dawne Hickton Endow Pitt School of Law's Elder Law Clinic | Pitt Chronicle | University of Pittsburgh". www.chronicle.pitt.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- Reed, Paula (October 21, 2009). "Hickton believed to be frontrunner for U.S. attorney". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-04-27.